In 2005, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) approached Pro Bono Net for advice on how CLINIC could improve its technology, training and communications infrastructure to improve its network’s capacity to scale services in the event of a mass legalization program. Soon, with financial support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the JEHT Foundation, we invited the Advocates for Human Rights, the Immigration Legal Resources Center and seven other nonprofit leaders in the immigrants’ rights sector to join us in creating an entity to improve the sector’s strategic use of technology to respond, share knowledge, collaborate, and directly support millions of immigrants nationwide. Thus began Pro Bono Net’s immigrant justice initiative, known as the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN).
Nearly fifteen years after that first conversation and more than 500,000 people impacted later, we’re so excited to announce that the Pro Bono Net initiative known as the Immigrant Advocates Network will now be known as Justicia Lab, Pro Bono Net’s incubator for immigrant justice technology.
The new name reflects our team’s commitment to innovation and the communities that we serve. And it points to a new era for the organization as the leading nonprofit innovation incubator for immigrant justice technology and an expanded role developing digital tools to help immigrants navigate our immigration system, find workplace justice, and more.
In a moment where our democracy and institutions have never been more fragile, this theme across Pro Bono Net and Justicia Lab’s work of leveraging technology and collaboration to expand access to justice for our most vulnerable communities couldn’t be more important. Whether it’s a young mother experiencing domestic violence and using LawHelp Interactive to obtain an order of protection against their abuser, a low-income family in Georgia using GeorgiaLegalAid.org to stay housed in the face of an unlawful eviction, or a construction worker in New York state having the tools to fight back again stolen wages with Justicia Lab’s tool ¡Reclamo!, our work and partnerships bring life-changing relief to hundreds of thousands of people around the country.
For us, access to justice means not just having good and fair laws, but making sure that those laws are understandable and accessible to those with the fewest resources. It means creating tools that lead to legal empowerment rather than distrust, that build a culture of community-driven legal care and rebalance the scales of justice to make our legal system fairer for everyone, especially those historically excluded from it..
In our view true social innovation doesn’t come from disruption for the sake of disruption, it comes from co-designing and building new resources and partnerships that can amplify, scale and support the most impactful solution we already have – the advocates, organizers and volunteers on the ground who are already working to address injustice.
With so much at stake right now, Pro Bono Net and Justicia Lab are doubling down on our mission to be an anchor for developing public, not for profit, and safe digital legal solutions, regardless of what direction politics and governance in this country goes. We will continue to be a steady and committed legal and technology partner to legal aid organizations, community nonprofits, social justice groups, and others, and to work together to build programs and campaigns that address the root causes of inequality. Because people in this country deserve resources that will help them understand their rights, feel safe and supported, and make their voice heard when their home, family or livelihood is at stake.
We will continue to build solutions that address longstanding trust and access issues including keeping our resources free for the public to use, using plain language and embedding language justice, and prioritizing data privacy.
We look forward to strengthening existing initiatives and tools and building new ones and to continue to ensure technology is an equalizing force in justice movements and not a tool that exacerbates power imbalances. Thank you for your continued partnership and support.